7 Running Experts on How to Achieve 5K Race-Day Success

So you've signed up for a 5K and race day is just around the corner. Sure you've got your training covered, but you might still have a ton of questions when it comes to the day of the race.

What should you eat on race day? (And when?) How fast should your pace be? And how do you push through the discomfort and...you know...actually cross the finish line?

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Here are seven running experts sharing their insight on how to ensure you're fueled, fit and ready to run your 5K best come race day.

5K Race-Day Tip No.1: Eat Early, Eat Light
Matt Fitzgerald

The ideal time for a pre-race meal is about four hours before the race, because it's early enough to digest and store a large amount of energy (i.e. a large number of calories), yet late enough that this energy won't be used up by race time.

Most running races start early in the morning, and since sleep is also important it's often impossible to eat a full breakfast four hours before the horn sounds. 

That's okay. It's usually possible to eat at least two hours out. While you won't safely be able to eat as much this close to race time, you can still eat enough.

More: 5K Race-Day Tips From Matt Fitzgerald

5K Race-Day Tip No.2: Jog (Not Sprint ) Before the Race
Jeff Galloway

Many runners sprint before a race. Should you?

No. Warm up 30 to 40 minutes before the race begins by walking for five minutes, jogging for five minutes, then picking up the pace a bit for the next five minutes.

Finally, walk to the starting line.Run a perfect race with these race day tips from seasoned runners and professionals.

More: 5K Race-Day Tips From Jeff Galloway

5K Race-Day Tip No.3: Moderate Your Hydration
Kelly Bastone

Not only will chugging too much water before a race leave you feeling bloated, but it will also dilute your electrolytes—minerals responsible for optimum muscle contraction. Diluted electrolyte levels can cause muscle weakness or cramping and, in extreme cases, can lead to hyponatremia, a life-threatening condition triggered by abnormally low sodium levels.

In the days leading up to your race, drink fluids as you normally would to stay hydrated. This can include water, sports drink, juice, even coffee and tea. On the morning of the race,  drink 16 ounces of water two to three hours before the start, giving your body time to process extra fluid; drink another one to two cups right before the gun goes off.

More: 5K Race-Day Tips From Kelly Bastone

5K Race-Day Tip No.4: Go Slow and Steady
Jenny Hadfield

Be the tortoise, not the hare.The easiest way to a beautiful finish line photo is to pace yourself from the start. Take the four parts of the race (mentioned above) and color them in with Yellow (Mile One), Orange (Mile Two), Red (Mile Three) and Fire (yes this is a color and it aptly represents the final .1 mile kick).

Now, run by color—rather than your watch! The body doesn't know pace. It knows effort. Run by your breath and keep it easy for the Yellow Zone (Happy) or mile one–you should be able to talk. If you can't, slow down.

For mile two, take it to the Orange Zone—or at an effort level a little harder than Yellow, and an effort where you can hear your breath, but you're not gasping for air. 

As you run past mile two, pick it up slightly and head for mile three. This is what you've paid for and the time to go fishing. Cast out your invisible hook and catch a runner ahead of you (one that went out too quickly and is suffering the consequences) and reel them in (nicely). There is nothing more empowering than to pass people in the final stages of a race.

When you hit mile three, run tall, keep your effort and prepare for your finish line dance. When you have the patience to pace yourself from within and from the start, you will have the strength to finish like a super hero.

More: 5K Race-Day Tips From Jenny Hadfield

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